Tag Archives: schools

Libraries on the Road to Recovering and Revitalising Education

2021’s International Day of Education (24 January) carries a different weight than it has in past years. Although universal access to education is well-established as a human right, as well as a driver of sustainable development, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a new-found urgency, as well as a new set of challenges, to its delivery.

Fittingly, this year’s International Day of Education is dedicated to the theme: ‘Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation’.

From UNESCO: “Now is the time to power education by stepping up collaboration and international solidarity to place education and lifelong learning at the centre of the recovery.”

Libraries are an essential piece of this recovery.

As the world begins to look towards a post-COVID world, the theme of this year’s International Day of Education is a call to libraries to advocate for – and deliver on – their role in building back better through enabling and promoting learning.

The groundwork is there – libraries are already helping to reduce inequalities in education. One example is through their role in providing access to the internet, which increasingly is becoming a deciding factor in a student’s ability to engage in school.

In so many places already, libraries and their staff are helping their communities stay connected with the resources, support, and tools that are needed not only to recover, but also to revitalise, education, and through it, lives.

Therefore, we are marking this day with some lessons-learned during the pandemic, as well as a look to the future of education – and libraries’ role in it.

COVID-19 and Support for Remote Learning

Since March 2020, IFLA has been monitoring library responses to the pandemic. This has provided a picture of how libraries have continued serving their communities despite physical closures and other restrictions. It has also provided a trove of stories showing how libraries have upheld support for education through challenging times.

You can find many examples to inform your own initiatives on our website.

Shared Stories: Public Libraries in Egypt

Heba Ismail, Secretary of the CPDWL Section and Libraries Technical Manager at Egypt’s Society for Culture & Development has shared a look at how libraries across Egypt have found success in engaging users during the pandemic. Here are some of ways they have supported education at all stages of life during this time:

  • Sharing links to educational resources in science, arts, culture, and heritage
  • Storytelling workshops for young readers
  • Free training workshops for school-aged students to assist with research-based projects, which replace end-of-year exams for most students
  • Online training services on topics including English Language and Computer Skills, conducted via Facebook
  • Participation in a national initiative to provide virtual programmes to train and qualify youth for the labour market
  • Conducting online courses in cooperation with civil society institutions such as the Arab Women Association.
  • Providing COVID-19 and public health information

See her full article online here.

COVID-19 and Professional Development

Librarians are not only the providers of lifelong learning. Librarians must also be recipients of ongoing training and professional development to enable agility in the face of rapid change.

IFLA’s CPDWL Section shared experiences and explored this concept further in their January 2021 newsletter.

Shared Stories: Tips and Lessons-Learned

Rajen Munoo, of the Singapore Management University Libraries, shares a key lesson regarding opportunities that may come hidden in the challenges of COVID-19: “Continued learning and upskilling is the new vaccine in managing our own personal professional development”.

Here are some ways that Section members found they could continue their own continued professional development (CPD) and learning during the pandemic:

  • Attend virtual conferences and webinars. Take the opportunity to discover new topics, such as research data management, open science, advocacy, and leadership. Not needing to travel may help you get approval from your institutions’ leadership to explore new areas.
  • Find opportunities to upskill in areas that support your institution’s digital transformation. This may include building competency in tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Outlook, Blackboard Collaborate, Mentimeter, and Leganto (Ex Libris resource list management system).
  • Get familiar with new formats for teaching and sharing information virtually, such as creating short videos.
  • Focus learning on open access information, such as online databases, repositories, scientific periodical portals, electronic book collections
  • Don’t forget personal well-being. Training in stress management and mindfulness can be helpful for both staff and users.
  • Get involved with mentoring programmes to facilitate knowledge-exchange between professionals at different career stages. Involvement in a national (or international) library association may help connect you to these opportunities.

While enriching librarians’ careers, these skills go beyond personal growth. They can be instrumental in helping library and information professionals meet the challenges of a post-COVID world.

Beyond COVID-19: The Future of Education

Perhaps as much as anything, the pandemic has made the deep inequalities that persist within our societies abundantly clear.

In terms of education, this means that those who are most disadvantaged have also been impacted the hardest.

The UN refers to COVID-19 as the largest disruption of education systems in history. While closures of schools and other learning spaces have “impacted 94% of the world’s student population”, the UN reports that this impact is up to 99%  in low and lower-middle income countries [source].

Pre-existing education inequalities, such as reduced opportunities for those living in poor or rural areas, girls, refugees, persons with disabilities and forcibly displaced persons, have been worsened by the pandemic. These inequalities must be addressed to both recover and rejuvenate global education.

Reimagine Education

One of the UN’s recommendations to prevent further crisis is to “reimagine education and accelerate change in teaching and learning” [source, page 3]. This includes focussing on the needs of marginalised groups, offering employability programmes, supporting educators, and remove barriers to connectivity.

Innovative methods developed during the pandemic to provide services remotely, engage the public online, and connect more people to library services can continue benefiting society in the future.

IFLA stands ready to support the library profession in this work as we look to recovery and rejuvenation.

What can you do?

Advocate! – gather stories of how your library has adapted during the pandemic in order to support education and learning, and how it will continue these services in the future. Share these stories on your communication channels, with decision-makers, and with your local library association.

Learn Yourself! – be sure to take note of lessons you have learned during the pandemic, think about how they can help others now and in the future. Take advantage of opportunities to develop skills that can help you more effectively provide access to information and education.

Start Local! – identify inequalities in learning that exist in your community and align your programmes and services to address them. Look to team up with educators at your school, university, or within your community to amplify and support each other’s work.


Library Stat of the Week #42: Students from foreign language backgrounds rely more on libraries than their native-language peers

Over the past few weeks, our Library Stat of the Week posts have been looking at the degree to which students from different groups rely more or less on libraries.

We can gain insights into this from the results of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s  (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which in 2009 included a strong focus on libraries.

Today’s post looks at a further variable – whether students mainly speak a foreign language or the national language at home. In practical terms, in a country like the United Kingdom, we are looking at the difference in library use between children in English-speaking households, and, for example, Polish-speaking households.

This can have an impact on scores in reading and literacy, with young people with less exposure to national languages potentially struggling. Added to this is the fact that children of parents who do not speak the national language fluently cannot necessarily call on them for help with homework.

Graphs 1a and 1b therefore look at the difference in levels of library usage between these groups, expressed as the average score for students who come from households which mainly use a foreign language minus the average scores for students from households using the national language.

Graph 1a: Difference in Reading Index Scores Between Students who Speak a Foreign vs the National Language at HomeGraph 1b: Difference in Reading Index Scores Between Students who Speak a Foreign vs the National Language at Home

These demonstrate that on average, there is a gap of 0.24 points within the OECD, and 0.19 globally in favour of students from households using a foreign language, on an average that runs from -1 (no library use) to +1 (very intense library use).

The biggest gaps are seen in Hungary and the United Kingdom, although in total, 44 of the 55 for which data is available see students from foreign-language-speaking households making more use of libraries than those from national-language-speaking households.

Meanwhile, in only 10 countries do children from national-language households use libraries more than those from foreign-language households.


The data here appears to make a similar point to that made in previous posts in this mini-series – that young people who have characteristics often associated with disadvantage tend to use libraries more intensively than their peers.

Again, as before, the implication is that any moves that make access to libraries more difficult are likely to have a disproportionate impact on those who are already more at risk.


Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.

A Vital Job at a Difficult Time: Libraries Supporting Teachers During COVID-19

The closure of schools as part of the response to COVID-19 has had major consequences that have not only been felt in the short-term, but that may continue to be felt well into the future.

Teachers have been obliged to change their way of working dramatically at short notice, going from in-person teaching to online. This has forced a rapid learning process which, however successful, has still left the frustration of not being able to interact with and support students in person.

In turn, while many are still able to continue to work from home, teachers have again been among the first to return to their jobs.

Of course, librarians in all library types involved in promoting education and learning, will share these feelings. Stories of shifting activities online, adapting and innovating using digital technologies, and overcoming challenges are common to both professions.

But the shared experiences are not just limited, in abstract terms, to the type of work being done. Collaborative working is also happening in reality, on the ground, with librarians working hard to support and complement the work of teachers, even in difficult times.

To mark World Teachers Day 2020, this blog highlights just some of the examples we have seen of support being given:


From Physical to Digital Materials: clearly one key form of support provided by librarians to teachers was access to materials both to support lessons, and to encourage wider reading (itself a key driver of literacy skills).

Even with libraries physically closed, this role has continued, for example at the Marisa Escola Social Santa Monica in Brazil, where the library engaged closely with teachers in their lesson planning to identify and provide access to appropriate materials. With so many materials available on the internet, help in finding the right ones has been strongly appreciated.

Similarly, the Portuguese School Libraries Network created consultation hours where teachers could approach school librarians in order to identify available materials for lessons. Meanwhile in Massachusetts, United States, school librarians joined teacher Zoom meetings in order to understand needs, as well as proactively reaching out to set out how they could help.

Other libraries have stepped up, with the National Library of Spain for example expanding and promoting its offer of curated materials to support education.


Continued Support for Literacy: another key way in which libraries support teachers is by helping develop the wider literacy skills that ensure that students can engage more effectively with other subjects on the curriculum. School and public libraries in Malaysia, for example, have used social media and other tools to advance the country’s wider programme for reading promotion, eNILAM.

School libraries have worked to make the most both of physical and digital collections, even under pandemic conditions. For example, Roosevelt Elementary School in Lakewood, OH, United States set up a ‘book-grab’ service based on a virtual school library, looking to give children as strong a sense of continuity as possible, alongside activities such as ‘battles of the books’.

Children have also, of course, benefitted from work in public libraries to maximise access to collections, develop online storytimes, and in particular, to deliver digital library cards thanks to agreements between schools and libraries.


Wider Skills Provision: libraries have also been working hard to realise their potential in providing after-school or other extra-curricular learning opportunities that complement what children learn in school. For example, in Portugal, libraries have coordinated with schools in order to run programmes that start soon after school hours, in order to keep children engaged and learning.

Arlington libraries, VA, USA have encouraged children to create ’quaranzines’ in order to express their creativity and share their experiences, while the National Library of Jamaica has developed programming focused on helping students towards their exams.

While activities such as summer reading challenges (in the northern hemisphere) have often not been possible in person, this has not stopped libraries running programmes online, with the National Library of France running events every week in coordination with the Ministries of Culture and Education. Meanwhile, in the US, libraries are finding new ways to run maker-spaces, teach STEM skills or promote information literacy and critical thinking.


These examples of course only scratch the surface. As such, they give just a tiny view of all that libraries can do – and are doing – to help teachers during extraordinary times. Across these, the value of close cooperation between teachers and librarians appears clear, both in order to ensure that teachers understand what libraries can offer, and librarians understand what teachers need.

As the world looks to imagine a future post-COVID, we can hope that a key part of this will be enhanced cooperation with libraries. As we have seen, when cooperation succeeds, students stand to benefit, reducing the risk of long-term negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

6 Days to Human Rights Day: The Right to Education is The Right to a Library

The second in our series of daily blogs leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights focuses on education. This is also the subject of a major global conference – the Global Education Meeting – taking place in Brussels on 3-5 December.

It underlines the vital and complementary role that libraries play to schools and other formal education institutions in ensuring that everyone has the possibility to learn and improve their life.


The right to education features in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a key enabling right, one that should give everyone the possibility to play a full part in society in the future. This is borne out by the evidence – some of the most spectacular stories of successful development in the last century have been based on investment in teaching and learning.

Yet when we discuss education, it is easy to focus on schools and universities – ‘formal education’. Indeed, many people associate learning with sitting in a classroom or lecture hall, and absorbing knowledge.

Of course, many libraries are based within schools and universities, providing students and teachers with materials and skilled support. They can even be the heart of their institutions, as is the case for some school libraries.

However, learning is much broader than this. And it needs to be. The world we live in, and the jobs we do, are evolve and become very different from those for which schools prepared us. Formal education can offer a valuable starting point, but it cannot be enough.

This is where the world’s 350 000 public libraries can come in. As was recognised in the original UNESCO Public Library Manifesto in 1949, libraries are ‘a living force for popular education’.

Many of the countries which do best in terms of formal education also invest heavily in their libraries, such as Finland and South Korea, in order to promote the right to education throughout life.

This is just as true today as almost 70 years ago. This blog looks at two ways in which libraries complement formal education.


Helping Young Learners in the Community

In many countries, libraries have a strong focus on supporting young learners. They are part of the ecosystem that ensures that children have access to books from a young age, especially when parents are not able to buy books themselves.

There are many examples, for example those run through Boekstart in the Netherlands, which provides valuable support to parents – and a complement to schools – in developing early years literacy.

As children grow, they offer a different environment – quieter often than school or home – which for some at least can make a real difference to their chances of success.

Libraries can also fill in gaps where schools are not able to offer the resources – or spaces – for young learners. Many of the projects run by EIFL’s Public Library Innovation Programme focus on giving young people access to tools, materials, and support they may not get elsewhere.

Libraries can also provide skills, for example media literacy or coding clubs, which help children grow, develop, and seize opportunities.

As set out in an IFLA article for World Teachers Day, librarians and teachers are natural partners.


Education Throughout Life

Of course education does not stop at any particular age. As highlighted in the introduction, changing technologies and changing jobs mean that people need to continue to learn.

Libraries can provide a vital gateway in this respect. Many offer basic education about how to make best use of the internet, for example to access eGovernment services or look for a job.

Some provide more advanced course in coding for example, or programmes aimed at personal fulfilment, such as creative writing or local history.

They can be attractive – and effective – as venues for learning precisely because they are public buildings, but are not as intimidating as formal education institutions.

They are particularly important for refugees, the focus of this year’s Global Education Meeting. For people arriving in a new country, at whatever age, there is always a need to learn, be it language, skills, or simply how the system works.

Libraries across host countries have looked to reach out, providing specific resources and support, especially around languages. And in refugee camps, actors such as Libraries Without Border are bringing these benefits to people who might otherwise struggle to carry on learning.


If the right to education is to be a reality throughout life, the need for libraries is clear. Libraries need to be a core part of education, training and lifelong learning strategies, engaged in conversations, and supported accordingly.